Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Election endorsement intro: who I am and why I do this

Who am I, and why should you care about my political endorsements?

I'm a freelance wine journalist; I chose this path because wine is the most interesting topic. But I have more relevant journalistic experience. In the SF Bay Area I have been a city editor at two local newspapers. At the second, I was on the editorial board, did some endorsements and won an award for editorial writing. I started my career covering cops and courts in Florida. I have also won awards for public service reporting and investigative reporting. I have lived in this area for more than 20 years. Before that I spent about a decade abroad so I have an international perspective. 

I rarely blog about wine anymore (instead I am writing about wine for publications that pay me to do so). But I keep doing these endorsement posts because I think we don't talk enough about politics in this country. Talk, not scream. We have devolved from a country where bipartisanship problem-solving was possible to a two-party system with extremists on both sides who are against any kind of cooperation. I believe if we actually discuss who we're planning to vote for with our neighbors, we will elect fewer extremists, and that will be better for everyone.

Also, I consider voting to be a sacred right and responsibility, so I do research to decide how I'm going to vote on every ballot measure and school board candidate. I might as well share what I come up with.

Politically, I am a Democrat, but foremost I am a pragmatist. That said, while I'm endorsing two Republicans for statewide office this year, in 2022 or 2024 I don't think I could vote for any Republican candidate for national office. I support democracy. That wasn't a political position in the past but Trump has made it one.

In San Francisco, where 85% of us are Democrats, the ongoing battle is between Progressives and Moderates. For most of my life I have sided with Progressives because they have been right about the big issues, starting with climate change. However, lately in SF Progressives have lost their way. They're putting ideology over practicality, whereas I will always vote for practicality. It's practical to drastically reduce our carbon emissions, and to increase taxes on the wealthy. Public transit is practical. Public power might be practical. It's impractical to have a school board that can't pass a budget or a DA who won't prosecute Honduran drug dealers because he doesn't want them deported.  

I see San Francisco deteriorating and don't think we're taking it seriously enough. Polls show I'm not alone. Our No. 1 industry, pre-pandemic, was tourism. We can't keep mocking reports from tourists who are horrified by the filth on our streets. We can't keep ignoring business leaders who say their employees don't want to work downtown. We definitely can't keep ignoring anti-Asian violence in a city that is 37% Asian. We need to take control of our streets. Recalling DA Chesa Boudin was a good start, but we need to keep on it.

The No. 1 issue for this city, all sides agree, is homelessness. For many of us, we just want fewer homeless people so there's less human feces on the street and fewer alarming confrontations.

But we have a huge homeless industrial complex in this city that gets paid because we have so many homeless people, so they show up to every board meeting advocating for solutions that line their pockets, rather than helping the city. Keeping the homeless population large is in the homeless industrial complex's best interest. And because they are loud and ever present, too many city leaders believe that what voters in general want is large expenditures to make street life more pleasant.

We spent $1.1 billion last year on a homeless population estimated at under 9000. We could have given every homeless person $100,000 dollars cash, and that would have been cheaper. We don't distinguish between homeless people. For families that lose their housing because of illness, I'm in favor of a huge amount of support. But our homeless industry treats every junkie that hitchhiked here the same as actually needy people.

If you actually ask the drug users on the street, as SF Standard did, they're not from here and "they come to party." Let's not reward them by giving them free hotel rooms.

Thanks to Chesa Boudin, criminal justice has become the main dividing issue between Progressives and Moderates. I'm with the Moderates. I'm glad first offenders are getting opportunities to avoid prison, but career criminals should be held while awaiting charges. If there is one aspect of the US criminal justice system I could reform, it would be our prison system, which is overly punitive with insufficient opportunities for prisoners to learn trades and improve themselves. Prison is bad! But it exists for a reason, and the DA's office exists not to be an adjunct of the public defender's office, but to put away criminals who pose a danger to the rest of us. Boudin's defenders have sealed themselves into an ideological bubble that apparently prevents them from seeing how terrible he was for the city.

On candidates: I want them, foremost, to not be corrupt. I would vote for an honest person I don't agree with (Mitt Romney, for example) over a corrupt person on my political "team." (Another reason I can't accept today's national Republicans at all. How can any person of conscience continue to condone Donald Trump?)

That's who I am, why I do this, and my main views on the issues of the day. (I'm very pro-abortion, btw, but that's not a local issue at this time.)

Now, where do I get my information? That changed a lot this year.

The San Francisco Chronicle and defunct San Francisco Bay Guardian were my twin towers for years. I used to be firmly between them politically -- right of the Guardian, left of the Chronicle -- but the Chron has taken a hard left turn and is back to practicing the kind of yellow journalism that its owner Hearst Corp used to start the Spanish-American war.

Hearst broke its own rules about anonymous-source content to run the picture and cutline on the right on the front page of SFGate for District Attorney Brooke Jenkins' first four days in office. Four days they left this up! They know exactly what they're doing: labeling a political opponent like Donald Trump does.

Misogynist Eric Ting wrote a story claiming "anonymous sources" (i.e., Ting himself) called Jenkins "icy," "horrible" and "insane." You don't see the Chronicle calling male politicians "icy." This is holding female politicians to a different standard: a DA who must not only fight crime, but be warm and, well, maternal while doing so. Nobody asked that of Boudin.

And what job does the author do? Misogynist Eric Ting is SFGate political editor! I won't be reading Hearst's endorsements again while he's in that job, because I vote for a lot of female candidates and want to see them treated fairly.

Fortunately, the pragmatic vacuum created by the Chronicle going misogynist-progressive has been filled by a couple of organizations doing pragmatic endorsements.

Grow SF does such a good job that I really don't even need to do this anymore. (And it's a lot of work, so maybe in the future I won't.)

Take Action SF also did a nice job.

From the left, the San Francisco Bay Guardian still does endorsements even though it's a cobweb site now; editor Tim Redmond uses the SFBG site to get around rules for nonprofit news sites like his new place of business, 48Hills. I have tremendous respect for Redmond even though the publication is far left of me politically. Unlike the current regime at the Chronicle, it treats candidates fairly and takes every issue seriously, and its endorsements are always worth reading even when I don't agree.

The new SF Standard is doing good journalism work online, and its voter guide is pretty good although it lacks endorsements.

And here's a shoutout to the Marina Times. I never paid attention to it until this year, but it was the only local media organization to endorse the Boudin recall. Has the city's media ever been more out of touch with its readership? Editor Susan Dyer Reynolds is a Twitter crank who goes after hypocritical progressives like a terrier shaking a squeaky toy, but she does the work journalistically, which I respect. I'll pay more attention to it now.

For statewide issues I also read the LA Times and the Sacramento Bee. I read the candidates' statements on Smart Voter. At some point I make a decision, and then I share it with you. I have been doing endorsements for more than a decade so if you really want to know where I stand, it's all online.

Thanks for reading and please vote.

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